Happy Saint Valentine’s Day! Or is it? If you are a married couple whose relationship is strained or struggling, February 14 can be a day of great sadness. That’s how it used to be for Allan and Teresa Sonfilippo Wilcox from Lansing until, by the grace of God, they both discovered Retrouvaille.
“Without the Retrouvaille program, our marriage would have been just another negative statistic,” write Allan and Teresa, February 14.
“After experiencing the Retrouvaille program, we can proudly declare that divorce is not an option. Our family is intact, and our marriage is way better than it ever was.”
Founded in Quebec in 1977, Retrouvaille is a Catholic apostolate that provides help for couples who live in the disappointment and pain of marriage problems, enabling them to put the pieces of their marriage back together and to avoid divorce. As the Church concludes National Marriage Week, February 7-14, upon the Feast of St. Valentine, Allan and Teresa tell their story in full below:
“National Marriage Week is a week to celebrate marriage and honor husband and wife as the foundation of the family, the basic unit of society. This is important on so many different levels, as the family unit and marriage are constantly under attack from those who would like to see the nuclear family disappear and be replaced with an alternate reality of family and marriage. Over seven days, concluding upon Saint Valentine’s Day, we reflect on the faithfulness, sacrifice and joy of daily married life."
"Retrouvaille came about because there were many married couples that went to Marriage Encounter weekends that were hurting too much for Marriage Encounter to be effective for them. Their marriages were hurting from a lack of faithfulness to each other, marriages that forgot how to sacrifice for each other and lost the joy in that sacrifice for the benefit of the marriage. When that happens, many marriages fall apart and the husband or wife, or both seek divorce as an option, thinking that the pain of a troubled marriage will then go away. In reality, that is rarely the result.”
“Retrouvaille believes that a hurting marriage can be repaired to the point where divorce is no longer an option, and the family can be spared the heartache of a broken marriage and that the pain caused can be a thing of the past. Forgiveness plays a large role in that reality. While many of us know of forgiveness as a concept, it is still foreign to most of us who are asked to put that concept into practice each day, maybe even many times each day in our own marriage.”
“It is hard to follow the example of Jesus, who while being crucified, said “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. That is faithfulness in the Father. That is forgiveness at work. That is what we are called to do in our marriages each day. Being faithful to the marriage isn’t just about sexual fidelity, it’s about working to make the other the most important thing each day, after God of course. The sacrifice we make is for the other, that their day may be made easier. When that sacrifice is reciprocated, it then becomes a joy.”
“My greatest mission as a husband is to help my wife get into heaven and hers is to help get me into heaven. We do that best when we are being faithful to God and to one another in all aspects of our marriage life. When we accept the sacrifice of our spouse and acknowledge that sacrifice, we are more likely to make sacrifices of our own and that helps the marriage thrive into a joy that may seem unreal at times to an outside observer but be assured that it is real. Without the Retrouvaille program, our marriage would have been just another negative statistic.”
“After experiencing the Retrouvaille program, we can proudly declare that divorce is not an option. Our family is intact, and our marriage is way better than it ever was. When we brought God into our marriage, our marriage started to change for the better. To be honest, Teresa was already there with God, on the other hand, I had a journey ahead of me that would change my whole way of thinking and being.”
“When we honor our husband or wife by being faithful to our marriage, we are also being faithful to God. When we sacrifice for the other and make our marriage the first priority, we are sacrificing for God and making Him the first priority. When we do both of those things, we find the real joy in our marriage, a marriage that also honors God.”
“Our prayer for all of you is that you find faithfulness in your marriage through God, that you come to have a shared sacrifice for the benefit of your marriage and that by doing that, you find the joy that God has for you in your married life.”
Through Jesus we pray, Amen
Love and Peace,
Allan and Teresa Sonfilippo Wilcox